The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Kosovo 2002: Guantanamo bay in the Balkans
HITS: 9715 | 13-03-2007, 08:19 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, War and peace

This report was first published in January, 2002. Nearly, four years later, the issue of CIA renditions to European countries where suspects are possibly tortured is being investigated. As Le Monde quoted BHHRG's 2002 report in an article published on 25th November, June: "<…> "prison secrète" américaine a existé dans un camp de l'OTAN au Kosovo ... existence" we are reprinting the report. Also, published is BHHRG's Mark Almond's February, 2002 New Statesman article "Nightmare at Camp Bondsteel".


The international community, which governs the former Yugoslav province of Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina, bases its legitimacy on the concept of the rule of law. On 12th February 2002, indeed, the trial began in The Hague of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. This trial is intended to embody the way in which the international community is working towards the realization of the rule of law in the Balkans in particular and in international affairs on a global scale.

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Mikheil Saakashvili: Power Grab
HITS: 2412 | 21-12-2005, 23:09 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Political leaders, War and peace

 “We call Saakashvili Stalin …he is good, fair and that is why” (a citizen, Imedi TV, 19th February, 2005)

“We had the first televised revolution in history. We were live on CNN for four and a half hours without a commercial” (Saakashvili – Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9th March, 2005)

To describe the November 2003 events in Georgia as a ‘revolution’ indicates a failure to understand the trajectory taken by revolutions in the past. Yet, most Georgians, including those disenchanted by the Saakashvili regime, continue to repeat this oxymoron. As BHHRG pointed out in its report on the November 2003 election[1], the main beneficiaries were all former ministers and leading cadres in the ex-president’s political party. Historically, a revolution has signalled a break: neither Louis XV1’s ministers nor relatives of the Tsar took power after the respective revolutions in France and Russia. People’s failure to notice any improvement in their lives in Georgia since November 2003 may be because the same people are running the country as they did during the 1990s.

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Georgia 2005: Rose Revolutionary Justice
HITS: 2140 | 21-12-2005, 22:50 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Politics, War and peace

Mafia shootouts, harassment of the opposition and media, political prisoners … it’s business as usual in Georgia.
It is nearly two years since the republic of Georgia experienced what became known as a ‘Rose Revolution’. News media around the world heralded this development as the dawn of a new era in which the impoverished former Soviet republic sloughed off a corrupt and moribund regime to embrace young, market-orientated reformers under the leadership of Western-educated Mikhael Saakashvili who was elected the country’s president in January 2004.
A year later, in November 2004, another ‘colour-coded’ revolution took place, this time in Ukraine. Again, the media pointed to Saakashvili and Georgia as the successful model for the latest spontaneous outburst of ‘people power’. The Georgian president was a regular commentator on the stand-off in Kiev offering comradeship and support to his fellow revolutionary, Viktor Yushchenko.

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The Andijan Tragedy: From Jailbreak to Massacre?
HITS: 3421 | 24-08-2005, 20:01 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Analyzing, War and peace

“The trial opened in February, and by last week, a sentence was due. The trial had already brought thousands into the streets of Andijan for peaceful protests, and the protest leaders promised massive resistance if the men were convicted. But the sentence never came.”[1]
Although regional specialists and locally-based journalists and NGO activists had followed the trial of Twenty-three businessmen in Andijan on charges of Islamic fundamentalist subversion before 12th May, 2005, the impending crisis had passed the outside world by.
Yet it is important to note that before the trouble broke out, contrary to the image of a relentlessly intolerant police state, one of Uzbekistan’s main critics, Daniel Kimmage of RFE, reported, “The brother of one defendant told, “We are ready to do anything in order to free our innocent brothers.” Police have not interfered in the demonstrations, which are unusual in their size and degree of organization, according to observers...”[2] The glib descriptions in Western media after 13th May of Uzbekistan as a state where protests were never tolerated were not matched by evidence from reporters there before the violence broke out.

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The Andijan Tragedy: Why no pictures of the �massacre� itself?
HITS: 2341 | 24-08-2005, 19:47 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Analyzing, War and peace

Whether William Randolph Hearst ever telegraphed the infamous phrase, “You provide the pictures and I’ll provide the war” to Frederick Remmington after his complaint in 1897 that there was no sign of war in Cuba is open to doubt. However, the widespread acceptance of this iconic statement of the power of the press baron is very revealing since it simultaneously indicates that people suspect that much of what they are told as news is “imaginary” to put it kindly and yet still such is the power of images that they impose a picture of events on us.[1] That was in the age of newspapers. Today publics in the West are commonly supposed to be in thrall to the audio-visual media but strangely enough our own electronic age no longer requires pictures to confirm words. Vivid prose and radio pictures are all that the posse of journalists and NGO activists in Andijan on that dreadful day can offer us by way of description of events. Pictures exist of before the “massacre” and of its aftermath but not of the event itself. This is a curious omission in an age of ubiquitous photographic devices.

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Events in Kosovo: Prizren
HITS: 2802 | 18-08-2004, 22:34 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, War and peace

Prizren is about as far from Kosovska Mitrovica as it is possible to get in Kosovo. This south-western city of medieval Orthodox churches and Ottoman mosques was one of the worst affected parts of the province by the anti-Serb pogrom. Although Western media reports routinely attributed the March 2004 Albanian on Serb violence to a reawakening of the desire for revenge as a result of Albanian sufferings at the hands of Serb forces in 1999, the mass attack on Serbs in Prizren casts doubt on the idea of revenge as the psychological root of the violence.
Contrary to common assumptions, Prizren did not suffer from brutal ethnic cleansing in the spring of 1999. Local Albanians there could not have harboured barely repressed anger against any erstwhile Serb persecutors in 1999 because the city was not the victim of ethnic cleansing. As television footage of the arrival of German troops on 12th June, 1999 revealed, large numbers of Albanians of all age groups and both sexes were in the city to welcome their liberators.
Prizren survived the 78-day NATO war against Yugoslavia almost undamaged. At the outbreak of the NATO bombing campaign radical Serb nationalists blew up the League of Prizren monument in the city.

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Cultural Genocide in Kosovo
HITS: 2850 | 18-08-2004, 22:20 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Global Events, War and peace

Arson and vandalism after 17th March, 2004

On 17th March, 2004, rioting spread across the UN-administered province of Kosovo. At least nineteen people, mainly Serbs trapped in village ghettoes since June, 1999, were murdered. Many Serb houses were damaged or destroyed by fire. A number of important historical monuments also came under attack. BHHRG has sent observers to Kosovo on numerous occasions since the end of the NATO air war in June, 1999. In March 2003, the Group had warned that the steady withdrawal of KFOR troops from Serb enclaves left both the ghettoised population and their cultural monuments at risk if the Albanian majority turned on them. At that time, a Swedish KFOR contingent had pulled its tanks away from the world famous orthodox monastery at Gračanica outside Priština.[1]
Ostensibly, the violence broke out when local Albanians were enraged by reports that three teenage boys had been chased to their deaths in the River Ibar by a gang of Serbs accompanied by savage dogs. According to the initial reports, these events took place near the ethnically-divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the north of the province which had been a flashpoint for violence in the past.

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Cyprus 2004: Curtains for the Annan Plan
HITS: 2840 | 3-06-2004, 17:38 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , Analyzing, War and peace

The Greek Cypriots said a firm 'no' to the Annan Plan in the 24th April referendum. But, will this end attempts to reunify Cyprus?
The results of the referendums on the Annan Plan[1] for reunification of the island of Cyprus, held on 24th April 2004, turned out much as expected. Voters in the south voted overwhelmingly ‘No’ while a majority in the north said ‘Yes’. As the campaign to sell the Annan Plan intensified, the international community’s former disapproval for TRNC vanished and the new ‘bad boys’ became those politicians in the south, Cyprus’s president Tassos Papadopolous in particular, who had urged his countrymen to vote no.
However, despite promises of increased aid and cooperation for the Turkish Cypriots from the US and Europe, there is limited room for manoeuvre as TRNC is an unrecognised state and there is no sign, as this report is written, of any change in its status. Similarly, it is difficult to see how the Republic of Cyprus can be effectively ‘punished’ as it is an economically successful state and now a member of the EU.

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The post-Kosovo Refugee Crisis: Italy - the Problem
HITS: 2444 | 17-01-2003, 05:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, Global Events, War and peace

The majority of illegal immigrants enter Western Europe through the south-eastern Puglia region of Italy. The area is poor but it has two important ports, Bari and Brindisi, which connect Italy with the Balkans, Greece and Albania with regular ferry services used by many freight vehicles. A flat, scrubby coastline dotted with abandoned buildings makes clandestine landings from the small craft _ mainly fast rubber boats with outboard motors _ used by the Italian and Albanian smugglers (known as Scafisti) and the dispersal of their cargo of asylum seekers relatively easy.

It is general knowledge that most of the smuggling operates from southern Albania, from the port of Vlora (Italian Valona) from where high - powered speed boats that carry around 40 passengers usually evade the Italian coastguard patrols to reach the coast. Although the trade in refugees has been publicized widely since the Kosovo crisis _ many Kosovan refugees paid middlemen to arrange their departure from camps in Albania _ it has been going on for some time. In January 1998 BHHRG representatives saw groups of mainly young men making their way in broad daylight towards boats waiting along beach of the bay in Vlora. Police stood nearby doing nothing even though the new Albanian government (elected in summer 1997) had assured European governments of its commitment to stamp out the trade.

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The post-Kosovo European Refugee Crisis
HITS: 2019 | 17-01-2003, 05:13 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, Global Events, War and peace

With the end of the 78 day war between NATO and Yugoslavia, hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians may have returned home, but a new refugee crisis has followed. During the summer, the British Helsinki Human Rights Group conducted several on-the-spot observation missions in Dover, Calais and south-eastern Italy to analyze the complex and controversial issues of political asylum, migration, and the role of the mafia in people smuggling.
Real Refugees, the Abuse of Asylum and Organized Crime
With the end of the 78 day war between NATO and Yugoslavia, hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians may have returned home, but a new refugee has crisis followed. The flow of would-be asylum seekers claiming to be from Kosovo and trying to enter EU states has not stopped. During the summer several European countries reported an upsurge in the number of refugees arriving and seeking asylum, notably Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy. During the summer, the British Helsinki Human Rights Group conducted several on-the-spot observation missions in Dover, Calais and south-eastern Italy to analyze the complex and controversial issues of political asylum, migration, and the role of the mafia in people smuggling.

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